By Given Mutinta
Zambians who are privileged to have been around for some time know that President Michael Chilufya Sata will next year, 2013 celebrate 50 years of being in active politics.
He is a veteran, an old hand with loads of political experience. This is one attribute that cannot be taken away from him.
Sata’s political vocation started in 1963. His first high-ranking public office assignment was as Governor of Lusaka under the United National Independence Party (UNIP).
Then he became a Member of Parliament (MP) for Kabwata constituency in Lusaka.
In 1991, during the crusade for multi-party politics Sata dumped UNIP and joined the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
Following the defeat of a long-time President Kenneth Kaunda by Frederick Chiluba, Sata became one of the leaders to revive in the political limelight.
Under the Chiluba regime, he served as Minister for Local Government, Labour and Social Security, and Health in that order. Later, he was appointed as Minister without Portfolio.
After Chiluba endorsed Levy Mwanawasa as his successor, this action drove Sata around the bend and went into opposition in 2001, forming the Patriotic Front (PF) party.
He contested the 2001, 2006, and 2008 presidential elections respectively, and lost.
Last year, 2011, he competed for the presidency for a fourth time.
Aware that he was the most experienced presidential runner, he used this privilege as one of his persuasive campaign tickets.
Consequently, some people fell for his ornate political experience. He was ‘vitriolic’ in his campaigns. Openly, he trumpeted himself as the highly experienced of all presidential aspirants.
He scornfully dubbed other presidential candidates as ‘amateurs’. It was Sata who disdainfully labelled Hakainde Hichilema (HH) as an ‘under five’ politician, a way of marketing his candidature on the basis of his political experience.
Sata won the elections receiving about 43% of the vote. His long political experience significantly contributed to his triumph and flying up of people’s social, economic, and political expectations.
However, one year down the line, his political experience has failed to inspire Zambians. He has disappointingly failed to give a lift to our economy from where MMD left it. As a result, the country is socially, economically, and politically striding back.
This will impact negatively on the growth and development that Zambia gained under the MMD regime. Unless an urgent measure is put in place, our country is going to the dead.
Countrymen and women, where is Sata’s 50 years of political experience to save our country? What is the value of political experience if it cannot be employed to instigate important conditions of good governance and democracy critical in national development?
As it is now, Sata’s style of leadership is hostile, and unfriendly to conditions that exert a pull on foreign direct investment, global community trust, and thriving economic environment for growth.
His failure to exhibit inspirational leadership confirms the fact that political experience alone is not sufficient to effectively run a country if not melded with formal education.
Sata’s challenges to successfully run the country should serve as a ‘mind opener’ to the public. There is need to rise above tribalism and regionalism so as to choose leaders with book-learning or propositional knowledge among other qualities.
What would be the cause of Sata’s lack of the expected coherency of political life’s experiences in spite of being a political old-timer?
In part, it is lack of formal education to round out his many years of political experience.
Personally, I admire his political experience. However, the fact that it is not secured with formal education it cannot make him to bring about the needed national development.
Today, the people Sata mockingly put a label on as ‘amateurs’ or ‘under five’ look cutting-edge in understanding the problems affecting our country and how they can be tackled
Can we be right to say his political experience is ‘ornamental’ or out-of-date?
It cannot be overstated that knowledge of politics gained through involvement in or exposure to politics alone cannot make one a good leader the country needs in this day and age, and neither can it be a substitute for formal education.
In as much as political experience is desired, formal education; at least a diploma or a first professional degree is indispensable as it is thinking itself. Thinking opens the doors to our mind and makes us receptive to broadening our horizons and learning new things.
Thus, formal education is one of the sure ways we can have knowledge, skills, mind, and character to gainfully lead others.
How can a person reason otherwise? Politically experienced and formally educated leaders stand better chances of setting specific goals and managing their country towards the achievement of national goals.
Frankly, it is irrational for people to be expecting development from leaders whose only assets are experiences. How can such leaders help people trust their judgment on national issues?
Thus, Sata is struggling to run the country because his political experience alone is not enough for him to intelligently engage in economic and political forms of reasoning to deal with a catalogue of issues affecting our country.
Simply put, political experience unaided with formal education cannot make a leader to be in touch with the present reality, build opinions, and capably interpret them correctly.
The best way political experience acquired through norms and values learned outside the context of formal schools can be used is to pair it with formal education. These two can broaden people’s intellectual landscape and a way forward to greater economic, social, and political illumination, and eventually to development.
Lastly, kudos to the Zambian Watchdog; the voice for the voiceless, the eye for the blind, and the ear for the deaf! Your hope, struggle, and hard work towards a better nation for all will be part of your rewards! Best Wishes!